While watching the staged photo op yesterday, a couple of items really drew my attention, probably because they stood out from the rest of the items which seemed to consist of a lot of knives, clubs and crude homemade weapons. I noticed an item that appeared to be chain mail body armour and a couple of shields emblazoned with clenched red fists which, in particular, seemed to fit well with the picture being painted of very angry anarchists. The first thought that went through my mind was "Man, that was a demonstrator that was really going to protect themselves from whatever violence was headed their way.". As I later found out while reading the Globe and Mail this morning, it turns out that the body armour belonged to 25 year old Brian Barrett who was headed to a role-playing fantasy game when he was stopped by police at Union Station and had his gear confiscated. Apparently police also confiscated some arrows that he had modified by replacing the tips with pool noodles and socks and plastic clubs covered with foam and plastic. Chief Blair singled out the arrows stating that they could have been soaked in a flammable liquid and set on fire before being shot. Apparently not in this particular case, according to the owner and I would guess that he should know. As well, police displayed the chainsaw and crossbow that were seized from a 53 year old man on Friday June 25th in a matter that even they admitted was completely unrelated to the G20 shortly after the owner's car was pulled over and the items seized. I guess they thought the items made for a better show and tell.
I noticed that the National Post covered the same story yesterday; here's a quote from their coverage:
"Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair displayed a shocking array of weapons and tools obtained from arrested G20 protesters this morning at police headquarters. The recovered items included body armor, sledgehammers, machetes, an electric drill, saws, crowbars, shields, aluminum bats, dog repellent, bamboo rods and bottles of hot sauce. Although the display of items took up half the lobby of the headquarters, officers on hand said more than five times the amount on display had been seized by police. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Blair said the items on display demonstrated the extent of the criminal conspiracy surrounding the violent G20 protests over the weekend. “No one should be so naïve as to think these people were there for the purpose of lawful protest,” he said, noting that the items were capable of “delivering deadly force.”
I'm hoping to see a correction in the National Post.
I would have to imagine that Mr. Harper would have been quite happy that his security chief during the G20 was putting on such a show. Maybe, at last, non-thinking voters would now agree that spending a billion dollars to protect G8 and G20 leaders along with a $5 million security fence could be justified. Maybe there really was a reason to be afraid now that we've been told that there was a criminal conspiracy afoot!
Perhaps the police did seize many more items, however, I would have to imagine that they put the attention-grabbing items on display for the media, leaving the more mundane items like vinegar-soaked bandanas in baggies in the back rooms. As well, even the mention of hot sauce reminds me of the RCMP being threatened by a stapler at the Vancouver International Airport. The way most of the front-line security personnel were outfitted in their storm trooper garb with full face shields, it is highly unlikely that most of the items seized would have had any impact on their well-being. As for criminal conspiracy, I think the Chief is giving way too much credit to a small group of thugs bent on breaking windows, spray painting buildings and hurling epithets and whatever else was handy at security forces.
If Chief Blair wants to re-establish the legitimacy of the actions of the security forces under his command during the G20 demonstrations this past weekend, this is hardly the way to do it. He has done nothing to create trust in the public over the past few days and his actions of yesterday reinforced the stereotypical police forces that Canadians trust less and less to look out after their rights and their freedoms.
Please Chief Blair, don't treat the public and media like fools. Please don't try to justify the actions of your security personnel by deliberately misleading the public who pay your salary. We're just a wee bit smarter than what you may think. Most importantly, please give us some credit for being able to ascertain what is the truth and what is not.